There have been a number of notable decisions under the Defamation Act 1996. The cases discussed below highlight criticisms of the Defamation Act 1996.
One such case under the Defamation Act 1996 is Singh v British Chiropractors Association. Singh criticised the practice of chiropractics. As a result, the British Chiropractors Association brought an action under the Defamation Act. The first hearing in 2009 was decided against Singh. This led to major criticisms of the Defamation Act as unduly restricting freedom of speech. This freedom was thought to be particularly important in light of the controversial nature of alternative medicine. However, this case was decided in Singh’s favour on appeal. Nevertheless, the case serves to highlight the effects the Defamation Act can have on freedom of speech.
A further example of an action under the Defamation Act is McDonald’s Restaurants v. Morris & Steel. In this case Morris & Steel published a leaflet alleging McDonald’s sold unhealthy food and exploited its workforce. The ruling under the Defamation Act was decided in McDonald’s favour. Again this led to criticism that the Defamation Act hinders free speech. This exact argument was made by Morris and Steel to the European Court if Human Rights in an action against the United Kingdom. They also argued that a corporation should not be able to bring an action for defamation. However, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that that an action under the Defamation Act was available to both private individuals and companies. This highlights the unfair nature of the claim as big corporations with huge resources can afford to challenge private individuals of limited means.
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